“TIME TO LEAVE”— The Reality of Mortality

time to leave poster

“Time to Leave” (“Le temps qui reste”)

The Reality of Mortality

Amos Lassen

Romain is a thirty year old fashion photographer and he seems to have everything. However, his life becomes chaotic when he is told that he has terminal cancer. He cannot tell his boyfriend or his family, he only feels he can tell his grandmother and quite naturally he is both angry and in denial. Eventually he is able to deal with it and when he meets a waitress, she offers him a way to leave something behind.

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Francois Ozon directed this film about life and death. Romain deals with his situation head-on. He rebels against medical advice and he strikes out against everything that held any importance for him. He either can’t or is unable to say goodbye to those he loves; instead he forces his friends and family to separate from him. He confides in his grandmother (Jeanne Moreau) who is in the later years of life and the time that grandmother and grandson spend together is precious. With her he is able to let go of suppressed emotions and they both look back at their lives and the things they have done and why. Romain tries to make some kinds of amends.

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Romain (Melvil Poupaud) is Romain and he gives an amazing performance in an emotionally exhausting role. We watch him change from an unsympathetic character into a person who thinks of others. Ozon cleverly splices childhood photos of Romain into the film so we get an idea of his life.

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Romain instead of savoring his last months of life, he attacks those that are close to him. He rejected chemotherapy because it had only a 5% success rate and he can’t stand the thought of losing his hair. He is selfish and it ran in his family so he has followed his father and his grandmother. He cannot share his illness with his family and he decides to live the end of his life alone, breaks up with his lover, Sacha and cuts himself off from his family. He throws himself into a decadent life style but then he begins to look into himself and goes to places that are important to him when he was younger. He meets a childless couple and learns from the woman, Jany, that her husband is sterile. She asks Romain to have sex with her hoping that she will conceive and he considers it.

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The film belongs totally to Poupaud. He is in every scene and if he is not speaking, he is watching. His looks and his weight seem to change as the movie moves forward and he moves from self-absorption to facing life. Granted the plot sounds like a downer and it is but it moves very quickly and there is no cheap sentimentality.

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The ending is beautifully shot and the poetry of the final scenes do a lot with very little, and for whatever I felt about the depth of the story leading up to it, the director made me care about Romain far deeper than I had realized.

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